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Gender Perspective in the UN Special Procedures

17 September 2013
The example of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence

Last week, the Human Rights Council held its annual discussion on gender integration in its work and an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence.

The annual discussion focused on civil society’s contribution to the integration of a gender approach in the work and mechanisms of the HRC. Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons and Chair of the Coordination Committee on Special Procedures, highlighted the efforts undertaken by special procedure mandates holders to include a gender perspective in their work, as provided in the HRC resolution 6/30.

The afternoon session featured an interactive dialogue with Pablo de GrieffSpecial Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and non-recurrence. This session demonstrated how the UN actively integrates a more gender sensitive approach. Grieff presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council including his report on a mission to Tunisia. While member States merely mentioned gender during the dialogue (with the exception of Finland which highlighted the importance of a gender approach), the report of the Special Rapporteur contained many references to the gender aspect of transitional justice

The SR on Truth and Justice successfully uses a gender approach

In his annual report, the Special Rapporteur noted that truth commissions are paying increased attention to women’s rights. He urged States and other actors responsible for the design of the mandates of truth commissions to ensure that truth commissions continue to dedicate specific attention to women’s rights and adopt a gender approach in the design and functioning of truth commissions.

While we welcome the inclusion of language specifically dealing with women’s rights and gender, Special Rapporteurs should not limit his analysis to the progress made by States and other actors in including women’s rights and gender in the mandate of truth commissions but should identify good practices and promote them.

A close look to the inclusion of gender in specific reports

And that is what the Special Rapporteur did in his report on his mission to Tunisia in November 2012. Pablo de Grieff identified good practices and in particular the fact that nine members out off 15 members of the National Fact-Finding Commission are women.

He also went further in the analysis and identified challenges faced by Tunisia in the establishment and the implementation of a truth commission. One of them is the inclusiveness of truth commissions. In Tunisia, national consultations to set up a truth commission did not include enough women; the Special Rapporteur says that “the voices of women, so crucial in the deliberations of a country on how to move ahead, were not sufficiently represented”.

We welcome the recommendation specifically calling on Tunisia to include women in an inclusive manner in the consultation process. WILPF is actively working on the participation of women in Tunisia and in the rest of the MENA region as part of our MENA Project .

By way of conclusion, we want to highlight that during the interactive dialogue held after the presentation of the report, Member States asked for examples of best practices in establishing truth commissions. No doubt about the inclusion of women in the decision-making process!

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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